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Need to speak with someone or I'll explode!

(38 Posts)
rushour Tue 22-Jul-08 11:16:15

I wasn't quite sure where to post this, but considering this issue may affect my relationship with my boss, I thought this was the most appropriate thread.

Last week in a 1:1 with my line manager, (who is really lovely, very approachable and we get on well) told me that the director of the company has been very critical of my grammar. I could tell she was feeling rather uncomfortable talking abt it, so she ended the conversation very quickly by saying they will offer 1:1 support with an external PR / Comms colleague.

I had to disguise my real feelings of utter
shock and just nodded my head in acknowledgement and said it was fine. I actually wanted to burst into tears and I've been withholding my feelings abt it ever since. I can't even bear to bring myself to talk abt it with my husband. I don't think i've ever got quite so worked up abt anything before in my life.

Its really knocked my confidence and I?ve never felt so inadequate before about something that is essentially a key life skill and I?m annoyed, because I?m thinking how on earth have I got through the last 10 years of my professional career? Why wasn't it ever picked up sooner by anyone else?

I graduated with a 2:1 (1st for my disseratation) 3 years ago and maybe I'm somehow justifying that my grammar can't be that bad surely, to have got through uni as a mature student and to have worked in a middle management position within local gov for several years.

I've been with my present company since jan 07 and because of this issue, i'm now questioning:
a) are my grammer skills really that poor? b) is she nit-picking
c) whether I can actually fit in with this company, because i'm not upto the standard required
d) i'm in denial and actually, there is a big issue with my grammar?

Would really appreciate your thoughts on how best to approach this. I welcome any support I need, but should I discuss my feelings with my manager? What will discussing this even achieve?

CoolYourJets Tue 22-Jul-08 11:20:32

Did they give you any examples?

I would want specifics to be able to quantify it a bit.

WinkyWinkola Tue 22-Jul-08 11:20:51

This seems like a very OTT reaction about bad grammar. I don't really know why it would require a whole meeting about it. If I'd noticed my AEs had bad grammar back when I was in paid employment, I'd simply have joked about it and asked them to scrub it up a bit and maybe bought a team grammar ref book.

What's the director the company like? When does he see your writing - what do you do? Does it risk revenue / client relationships i.e. are you a copywriter or something?

Erm, your grammar seems ok to me. I would ask for examples of your mistakes. I don't think anyone can just make silly claims against you without citing proper examples and how they could impact your work.

frumpygrumpyhasPMT Tue 22-Jul-08 11:21:52

I'm not surpised you feel like this. Sorry to hear it, any conversation like this makes me feel introspective.

Out of interest, what age are you? I'm 35. At school, we were not taught any grammar whatsoever and I remain completely in the dark about the rights and wrongs. Someone on here pulled me up a few years ago about something I said (too minor to be worthy of not IMHO!!! and I didn't bother replying).

Don't feel ashamed to tell your husband. Just talk it over, its what your partnership is about.

If you feel up to it, could you ask your line manager for more detail, which thing in particular made this come to a head?

hearnoevil Tue 22-Jul-08 11:29:47

does your line of work involve a lot of correspondence with clients and potential clients? if so i can see why the director would have an issue with it as poor grammar would reflect badly on the company.
if you got through college you certainly are not dumb and the fact that you did it as a mature student would indicate that you are not averse to learning new things.
Try to take the criticism from him as practical and priofessional rather than personal and look upon this as an opportunity to improve your skills.

jamescagney Tue 22-Jul-08 11:30:02

seems very odd. as long as you don't say/write in important meetings and docs " we was walking" or " I lay down"(!!) I can't imagine how your grammar is so bad that it needs to be addressed. Anyhoo, there's all types of grammar used in everyday lingo now, I don't see how it affects your performance unless you have one or two "catchphrases" that grate!(confer with dh about this) I'm putting on my conspiracy hat and thinking that your boss a jolly hockey sticks type who resents a working lass for pulling herself up be the bootlaces,gettin' out o' the mine and gerrin' erself a job! grin.
I would ask for examples and tug my forelock while doing so. What a silly moo (why do I think that your boss is a woman?)
Please don't let it upset you, imagine your boss asking your line manager to do that!

rushour Tue 22-Jul-08 11:31:01

Hey, that's a very good idea. I should've asked her to cite examples at the time, but my overwhelming feelings of outrage and embarrasment, took control of all my senses and any form of questioning may have ended up with me in tears.

I'm going to remain strong and ask my line manager to make references to my writing. I'm not a copywriter, but work as a project manager and I've just turned 30.

rushour Tue 22-Jul-08 11:47:34

btw - the director is a highly respected woman within the industry that I work in.

I do work with a lot of clients from different sectors. So, I can understand how my poor grammer may reflect badly on the company. I was appointed on my ability to influence and adapt my communication skills with different client groups.

I love my job, the people I work with and everything so far has been very positive. Maybe, i'm just handling this very badly. I will call my manager later to discuss this and to ask her to cite examples of my writing, which need to be addressed.

Thanks very much for all your responses.

WinkyWinkola Tue 22-Jul-08 11:51:40

But what poor grammar, Rushhour? Is it a fair criticism? Make sure it's fair before you assume that you need to do something about it.

And proofread every single thing you write!

coolbeans Tue 22-Jul-08 11:54:52

I can't believe that she didn't give you any examples - that's ridiculous.

If there is a problem, how on earth can you be expected to address it without clear evidence of what the issues are?

Get them to cite specific examples of where, and when, you have been (allegedly) making grammar mistakes - emails, reports, what?

You poor thing – it’s horrible when you get caught out like that – it’s hard to think straight. But, having reflected on it, go back and get them to be a little more specific and then you can see if it is justified.

prettyfly1 Tue 22-Jul-08 13:27:20

try and take it as a learning curve. You need examples.

Would it help if a colleague checked through your work afterwards?

frumpygrumpyhasPMT Tue 22-Jul-08 14:36:49

Just seconding Winky.......be sure there is a consistent problem here and don't assume the guilty position just yet......

It was your line managers job to discuss this with you. What she did was make you feel bad because she felt bad.

batters Tue 22-Jul-08 14:39:49

Did your line manager suggest ways forward for you?

I would definitely ask for examples.

rushour Tue 22-Jul-08 16:26:03

Hi there, i have just spoken with my line manager and she sensed from my reaction, that I wasn't happy. She has no specific examples to show me, but the next time i write a report or draft an important email, she will point out the errors.

She feels she handled it badly, because she didn't know how to and should've come prepared with examples. TBH, i'm glad she didn't come prepared, because at the time i was in such complete shock, that spending more time on the specifics would've really knocked me off the edge!

So, i'm glad I left it a couple of days and had time to reflect, before I spoke to her about it more openly today.

I'm feeling much better now, altho there is still a sense of embarrasment and my confidence is a little dented. Its not something I want to go round telling everyone about I suppose.

My manager thinks it could be a generational thing. Like you said, frumpygrumpy, i'm not even sure I was even taught grammar properly. What really stood out from our chat was her belief in my ability and sees the potential in me to progress further up the ladder, but doesn't want the grammer issues getting in the way, which is why she wants it addressed. Then it made me think, that they're not nitpicking, they genuinely want to help. I must be making consistent errors and working for clients who are very literate, i'm sure it will become noticeable over time.

So i suppose, they're really trying to help me to improve my skills and that can only be a good thing, huh?

WinkyWinkola Tue 22-Jul-08 17:09:08

Well, I guess. All still seems very lame to me. Especially judging by your writing on MN.

Nobody should make somebody feel that they are not good at something without examples of their failings. It's not constructive.

I'm glad you feel better but I think there's something else going on here TBH.

Creole Tue 22-Jul-08 17:57:33

WW - I am soo with you, I was reading this and hoping someone would say so. Is your company having difficulties? Are they laying off people? Sorry, I smell something fishy here and I think you need to investigate - covertly of course.

I probably have really bad grammar (and so are loads of my colleagues, we work with data though), but no one has ever "pulled" us up on it.

Thinking of you....

Poohbah Tue 22-Jul-08 18:52:09

You communication skills seem really good in that you've communicated the issue really well but did you mean to spell about as "abt" like you have repeatedly in your first post? Also I noticed that you have used a ? instead of a ' in a few words aswell.

Is abt text speak? Is that what she means by generational?

Is this really a grammar problem of a problem with you skim reading what you have written and not realising that you have made errors?

It could be visual problem or a concentration issue rather than a grammar problem but she's right to draw your attention to it.

Just a thought....

Poohbah Tue 22-Jul-08 18:54:13

That should read "or a problem" see I do it all the time...I have some visual loss or it could be the wine before 7pm. grin

Sounds really petty of her. If you're worried (and you clearly are) go and buy this book it is hilarious and tells you everything you need to know!

beanieb Tue 22-Jul-08 19:02:37

Do you work in an environment where a lot of communication is done through the written word?
Perhaps you just need to brush up on some business grammar?

Try to see it as a positive thing. I once sent an email out to all staff and someone responded to point out all the bad grammar. I was mortified but grateful because at least I was able to send out future emails without the same mistakes.

frumpygrumpyhasPMT Tue 22-Jul-08 19:06:56

Well, I'm pleased you spoke to her and came out with a fairly good result. Good for you and I bet you feel proud of yourself! And yes, a slight delay of a few days was good. If there did happen to be anything going on then they know you will stand up for yourself.

I guess we have to wait and see......

You have posted a number of times here today and there ain't nowt wrong that I can see!!!! grin

I hope you can tell your DH. I think thats important too.

Keep us posted xxx.

kerryk Tue 22-Jul-08 19:30:00

interesting that you are 30 and feel you were never taught proper grammer. i am 26 and feel exactly the same way.

my parents actually went into my school and asked why i was in the top set in english yet my grammer and spelling were terrible, they were told that we were not marked down on these points. i even managed to get a 1 in standard grade english hmm

i dont bother much on here but i come out in a cold sweat when i have to write something official. i usually e.mail things to my mum and get her to proof read it for me blush

EffiePerine Tue 22-Jul-08 19:37:39

Whether there is a problem or not, I'd take advantage of her comments and go on a copywriting type course or a brush-up on grammar? I think a lot of companies are offering this type of course now because so many of us weren't taught 'proper' grammar and so on at school (me included). It isn't necessarily a big problem, there may just be a few things that you can do to make your writing more clear and concise, which will only help in your career

Bink Tue 22-Jul-08 19:42:19

This is an interesting one!

Are you sure that this person actually meant problems with your grammar - as in knowing when to use "who" & when to use "whom", & not putting in inappropriate commas, & so forth - or is the issue, do you think, more generally about your writing style, as you say you were employed for?

As I find it hard to imagine this sudden huge meeting called on the basis of grammatical errors ... grammatical errors are detail, basically; they involve colleagues sending things back to you with red pen marks in them - or they certainly should, before they reach some kind of formal disciplinary sounding meeting. And it would only merit a big meeting if those hints were (a) being given; and (b) getting ignored, in a way that looked like deliberate.

But style, in the larger sense, is a vaguer thing and I can easily see problems with that being brought up in this sort of clumsy way. So, yes, ask for some specifics on the errors, and say, all politely, that you'd welcome feedback as and when they spot anything, so that you can put the details right & learn from each mistake - rather than them letting it fester into a meeting-worthy problem.

EffiePerine Tue 22-Jul-08 19:44:15

good point - may well be style rather than grammar

I know from reviewing other people's work that I tend to pick up on overly wordy or complicated language rather than obvious errors - both are 'wrong' in context

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